Baked BBQ Chicken and Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

I can eat barbecue any time of year no matter what the weather is like outside. If it’s a hot summer day, we’ll often have the grill fired up cooking up something for dinner. If it’s a cold winter’s day and there’s a blizzard, we’ll often have the grill fired up ….well maybe not every blizzard, but you get the drift.

Today I decided to give Kevin a break on grilling, and I baked some barbecue chicken thighs. Yes, I know, it doesn’t have that smoky, delicious taste that you get from slow cooking BBQ over charcoal, but it’s still my barbecue sauce, and that’s half the game anyway. And it made me think of summer and how it can’t get here soon enough.


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I’ve been making this barbecue sauce ever since Kevin and I have been married. I’ve posted a recipe below, but to be honest, I haven’t followed it in years. Yes, it has the basic ingredients and approximate amounts (because one time I actually did measure everything as I went), but I’ve always made it “to taste.” Melt a pat of butter, add in some ketchup, mustard, garlic powder and other stuff – stir and taste. And taste and stir until I get just the right combination. Then I let it simmer to reduce just a bit, usually timing it to when Kevin needs it to slather on the chicken or ribs or whatever else he’s decided to barbecue for dinner. Feel free to adjust any of the ingredients to suit your family’s taste. If you like it spicier, add in more hot pepper sauce or be a bit more adventurous withe horseradish. Or kick up the amount of brown sugar and molasses for a sweeter taste. However you make it, it’s barbecue, and dinnertime tastes a whole lot better because of it.




I’ve named the recipe after my husband’s nickname simply because he first made it for me when we were dating. However, I make the BBQ sauce now (after tweaking his recipe).

 

baked bbq chicken 2

 

baked bbq chicken plated 2

 

Woodrow’s Barbecue Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup ketchup

1/8 to 1/4 cup prepared mustard

2 dashes Lawry’s seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 to 4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

2 to 3 dashes hot pepper sauce

 

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add remaining ingredients, stirring well to dissolve brown sugar. Cook over low heat until hot and thick-do not boil. Adjust spices to taste.  Remove from the heat and use immediately, or store in the refrigerator.

Yield:  Approximately 1 cup

 

Baking Instructions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place skinless, boneless chicken thighs in the pan. Cover liberally with barbecue sauce. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

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I also made a spinach salad to go along side the BBQ chicken – nothing fancy, but I wanted to get some kind of greens on the table. This goes together fast, and you can use your favorite dressing with it. Tonight I decided to make a honey balsamic vinaigrette, which is tasty with just a hint of spicy kick to it. Word of caution about this dressing: do not substitute olive oil that has been infused with garlic for the garlic cloves and olive oil. If you think you can kill two birds with one stone by doing this, you’re more likely to run off any vampires within a 5-mile radius. I did this boo-boo once (and only once). My family and I love garlic, but that was garlic overload 101. Just stick to the 2 cloves of garlic and the EVOO, and you’ll be just fine.

spinach salad

 

Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the Salad:

1 package fresh spinach

4 ounces slivered almonds

4 ounces dried cranberries

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

honey balsamic vinaigrette

For the Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon white sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

 

For the salad, wash and dry the spinach leaves. Place all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss to combine.

For the salad dressing, add all the vinaigrette ingredients except for the olive oil to a blender. Puree on high until blended, and then slowly add the olive oil. Continue blending for about 2 minutes, or until thick. Use right away, or chill until ready to serve. You can drizzle this over the entire salad, or you can pass the Mason jar at the table and let everyone add their own amount of dressing.

spinach salad with vinaigrette 2


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CrockPot Pulled Pork, Onion Strings and Dipping Sauce

After finding a nice buy at the grocery store on some pork shoulders, I decided to make some pulled pork in the Crock-Pot. When we have time, Kevin likes to smoke these on the smoker, but when we don’t have a lot of time, the Crock-Pot is a great way to get the same flavors without having to stand guard while it cooks.

I decided to use a dry rub on this pork shoulder and let the meat simmer in some apple cider vinegar. You can pass your favorite barbecue sauce at the table if you wish, but it’s great just as is.

Along with the pulled pork, I fixed a broccoli coleslaw and onion strings with a spicy dipping sauce similar to what you’d get in a steakhouse. I’ve listed the recipes separately, but my sons informed me you have to pile everything together on the pulled pork sandwich to make the perfect bite.

My sandwich:

 

Crock-Pot Pulled Pork

4- to 6-pound pork shoulder
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Trim off any excess fat from the pork shoulder. Mix together all dry ingredients, and rub onto all sides of the pork shoulder.

Pour the apple cider vinegar and water into the Crock-Pot, and add the pork shoulder. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the meat easily comes off the bone.

Shred the meat. Serve on buns with barbecue sauce if desired.
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We recently got a new counter-sized deep fryer, and we’ve been trying all sorts of delicious recipes. When Kevin came home from work with some huge Vidalia onions (thanks Jeff!), I decided we needed to try Ree Drummond’s (The Pioneer Woman) recipe for Onion Strings. You can fry up as many onions as you wish – just adjust the ingredients to make sure you have enough flour mixture to coat all your onions. We love onion rings and strings in all shapes and forms, and this recipe is a definite keeper.

 

Onion Strings

1 whole large onion
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Oil for frying, between 1 to 2 quarts depending on the equipment in which you’re frying the onions
Salt and black pepper to taste

Slice onions very thin. Place in a baking dish, and cover with buttermilk. Soak onions for at least an hour.

Combine dry ingredients, and set aside.

Heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the onions in the seasoned flour mixture, and coat completely. Shake off any excess flour. Add the onions to the hot oil. Fry for a few minutes, and remove from the oil as they turn golden brown. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

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For the onion dipping sauce, I combined a couple recipes I’d seen to get the taste I was looking for. It has just enough spice so you can taste it, but it doesn’t overpower the taste of the onion strings. You can halve this recipe if just using it to dip onion rings, but the boys wanted sauce to use on their pulled pork sandwiches, so this makes quite a bit of dipping sauce.

Onion Dipping Sauce

2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow the flavors to marry together.

French Dressing and Fermentation

No, I didn’t ferment a French dressing recipe, but I did a couple of fermentation experiments plus made French dressing for supper today 🙂

I’ve been fascinated with the whole fermentation process and have been reading up on various different things to make, from kimchi to wine to natural sodas. So, while I wait for my cabbage to be ready so I can try to make kimchi, I decided to experiment with  making a ginger bug for homemade ginger ale and also a couple different kinds of homemade wine. Cheap wine. Nothing fancy in this household  lol.

The recipe for the ginger bug I found on wellnessmama.com through Pinterest, of course! I love the idea of making homemade sodas, and if it is fermented, it will be a natural probiotic as well..win-win in my book!

 

 

Making the ginger bug was really easy, and for the instructions on how to make, click on the link above to wellnessmama.com. Lots of good recipes on that site.

While I plan to someday get all the necessary equipment needed to make a good homemade wine, I thought I’d try my hand at some cheap wine made from items I had on hand already:  Plastic milk jugs, concentrated fruit juices (no preservatives), and ordinary yeast. I will get wine yeast in the future (if this turns out halfway decent), but the recipes I read said it can be done with ordinary bread yeast. Time will tell! The first just was made using regular grape juice concentrate, and the second jug was made using a cherry pomegranate juice concentrate. I love fruit wines, so I’m really hoping this last one turns out tasty 🙂 For the recipe, I again found one on Pinterest from allrecipes.com, and I pretty much followed it, although I did make a few modifications from other recipes I’d found online. I’ll let you know how it all turns out!

For the French dressing, I have a favorite I’ve made for a long time, and Martha Stewart’s website has the same recipe. It’s really easy to make, and it sure beats any French dressing you can buy from the store.

 

 

French Dressing

1/4 cup white-wine vinegar

1/4 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Coarse salt

1/3 cup olive oil

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In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, ketchup, sugar, paprika, and Worcestershire; season with salt. Whisking constantly, add oil in a steady stream until incorporated.
 
Makes about 3/4 cup

Indian Lentils, Sourdough Bread, and Fresh Lettuce with Creamy Garlic Dressing

I think I went on a garlic overload tonight. I personally love garlic, and the more the merrier. Even so, I took into consideration that my family, while they do like garlic, aren’t the fanatics that I happen to be.

For dinner tonight, I decide to raid the cupboards and make something from whatever I found. I took inventory of the ingredients I had on hand and went surfing to find a recipe that would work with those ingredients. As I’m trying hard to eat more healthy meals, I wanted to do a vegetarian dinner, and in a house full of carnivores, that can be tough to do! I stumbled across two different recipes for lentils with an Indian-style theme. The first was from www.feedmephoebe.com and her Red Lentil and Spinach Masala. The other recipe was from www.wholenewmom.com and her Indian Red Lentils recipe. Of course, I had to make it my own, so I combined parts of each recipe, and I liked how it turned out.

 

 

Indian-Inspired Lentil Stew

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 quart Roma tomatoes (home canned). Can substitute 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2-1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
Approximately 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
Approximately 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

In a large stockpot, cook onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the cumin, garam masala, cilantro, and turmeric. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, scraping up any of the brown bits that formed on the bottom of the pan. Add the lentils and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to keep from sticking. Turn down the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Right before serving, stir in the spinach and basil.

While I love Indian food, this was my first attempt at making it myself. I thought it was really good. This is a vegetarian dish, although it would be equally good with some shredded chicken breast and some chopped jalapenos for extra heat if you like a spicy dish. All in all, I’ll be making this again.

I made the Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread again to accompany this (see previous posts). This time I used only white whole wheat flour and baked it in a small cast iron Dutch oven. I really liked how the texture turned out when baking it this way, so I know it will be done this way a lot more in the future.

 

We also had tons of loose leaf lettuce from the garden to use in a salad tonight, and I wanted to make a creamy garlic salad dressing. This is where I think the garlic overload happened…again, I love garlic, but I was kindly told at dinner to cut back on the amount of garlic next time 🙂

Creamy Garlic Dressing

1 tablespoon loosely packed, minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip as I ran out of time to make homemade)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (fresh or from the green can is fine)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Smear the garlic and salt together with a chef knife to form a paste. In a blender, combine the garlic paste, mayo, sugar, pepper and Parmesan cheese together. Add in the vinegar and the olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.